The Dream Job with a 78% Bankruptcy Rate

Last Sunday, 102 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LIV. Across the world, countless little girls and boys looked at their screens with aspiration. Oh, to be a pro athlete. Fame, riches, and glory. But behind the scenes, the numbers tell a different story — one of inequity and financial destruction.

A mind-blowing 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement, according to Sports Illustrated. After Antoine Walker burned through his $108 million fortune, he filed for bankruptcy. Today, he’s turning his mistake into a lesson for others with a financial literacy initiative specifically for pro athletes. 

Former Boston Celtics basketball player Antoine Walker explains how he lost $110 million. He speaks with Pimm Fox on “Taking Stock.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Meet the Linebacker Moonlighting as a Money Prof

One of the world’s most prestigious business schools has a new financial literacy professor – but he’s only moonlighting. His day job? Linebacker for the New York Jets. Brandon Copeland teaches “Inequity & Empowerment: Urban Financial Literacy” to a diverse group of students from various grade levels at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as high school students from surrounding Philadelphia schools.

Brandon Copeland, a linebacker with the New York Jets and a financial literacy professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the importance of financial literacy with Bloomberg’s Scarlet Fu and Romaine Bostick on “Bloomberg Markets: The Close.”

Copeland is determined to shine a light on inequity in underserved areas. Where financial education is lacking, predatory lending, bad financial decisions, and long-term consequences can spread like wildfire.

A Fast Pass to (Fleeting) Fortunes

Some credit such high bankruptcy numbers to the short careers of professional athletes. While most of us earn paychecks for 30-50 years, the average career span of pro athletes is just 3.3 years in the NFL, and 4.5 years in the NBA. Combine such short tenures with paychecks large enough to (temporarily) erase any concerns for money at all, and the results are catastrophic: bad spending habits, mounting bills, and a fast end to fortune.

Another culprit? Copeland said it well: “inequity and empowerment.” Even in a country as wealthy as the United States, inequity is rampant. Sure, exposure is getting easier thanks to social media. But our kids are much more likely to be exposed to the lifestyles of the rich and famous than the saving habit of the wise and wealthy.

Put another way, access to financial literacy education remains elusive. Just like fresh food, public libraries, and clean parks, financial literacy inequity between the haves and the have-nots continues on the daily.

There is hope. As such respected people like Brandon Copeland and Antoine Walker step up to the plate, financial awareness and education are spreading. Who knows: perhaps tomorrow’s athletes will be known for a very different money statistic: growing their wealth.